Wrath and Mercy

On the On Being blog, Omid Safi writes about God's wrathful face and God's merciful face.  "The Qur’an," writes Professor Safi, "like the Bible, speaks both of God’s wrath and God’s mercy. 

Indeed there is a majestic wrath to God (jalal), and a more fundamental mercy and love, a beauty and a tenderness (jamal). In the Islamic tradition we are taught that to understand God perfectly, and to see the Perfection (kamal) of God, this majesty (jalal) and beauty (jamal) have to come together. May majesty never be bereft of beauty and mercy. May the God of storms and hurricanes also be the God of sunshine, the God of shade, the God of soft rain, the God of butterflies, lovers’ cuddles, and babies giggles.

Try to hold these images of God's wrath and God's mercy together. Begin by bringing to mind something you attribute to God's wrath. Maybe it's a natural disaster or a personal tragedy. In these wrathful moments, try to locate moments of love, mercy, and compassion. Perhaps it's the kindness shown by another person. Maybe it's an image of beauty hidden among the ugliness of wrath.

Focus your attention on these moments of mercy. How do you experience God in these moments? How does this experience of God's mercy compare to the experience of God's wrath?

Ask yourself this question: Do you fear God's wrath more than you trust in God's mercy? Sit with that question for a few moments. To help you answer it honestly, ask yourself these questions:

  • If given the choice, would you rather be an instrument of God's wrath or God's mercy? Why did you make the choice you did? The choice you make reflects more accurately the God you worship.
  • If you chose wrath, how does this prevent your from showing mercy toward others?
  • If you chose mercy, how do you show this mercy toward others?

Finally, close by praying the following as a mantra. How does this challenge your image of God and yourself?

God’s mercy prevails over God’s wrath.
God’s mercy dominates God’s wrath.
God’s mercy surpasses God’s wrath.
— adapted from Riyad as-Salihin, The Book of Miscellany, Hadith 419